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Short Term Memory - What Is It And How Does It Work?

Feb 10, 2008
Firstly it is important that we define what we actually mean by the term 'memory'. In very simplistic terms this is the human mind's ability and capacity to 'sort, store and retain as well as subsequently retrieve or recollect certain pieces of information'.

To aid you in your understanding of the human mind and how the memory functions within it work, it is important to know that in effect the human mind has three distinctly different types of memory. These three categories being, the short term memory, long term memory and also sensory memory. Each of these classifications work together in unison and are also categorized to reflect the way certain types of information are stored. They differ in that they deal with the duration the information is actually stored and also as to the methods by which the stored information is subsequently retrieved and used.

Recall From A Few Seconds Ago

In essence short term memory is that type of memory that allows us to recall information regarding things we have seen, heard or experienced just a few seconds ago or even from as long as a minute past. It is usual for short term memory to allow storage of small numbers, perhaps four or five 'objects' or pieces, of specific information.

When you go about estimating the duration of time that short term memory can hold information for it is necessary to understand that as a rule there is usually only three to four elements such as words, letters or digits that can be stored at any one time. It is, however, possible in some situations to increase short term memory to as many as nine elements. This is in stark contrast to long term memory in which information is stored and recalled over many years and the amount of information that can be successfully recalled can be almost unlimited.

Put in other words, it would be correct to describe short term memory as being the human mind's capacity for retaining 'in an active state' a miniscule quantity of data or information. This information and data can consist of things such as recently processed sensory contribution, information or items that were recently retrieved from long term memory. Finally, this short term memory could be as a result of some mental processing that recently took place although this form of information may better by processed by the mind's working memory feature.

Scientific research and analysis has determined that all memories, initially stored in short term memory banks, actually pass from this area of the brain over to long term memory after a period of time. At this stage the studies have not conclusively pointed to how the mechanism that transfers information from short term memory to long term memory actually functions.

Ongoing studies continue to explore how the human mind functions and how it elects to store the information to which the person is exposed - particularly what makes the information eligible for storage in the short term memory.
About the Author
For more details on short term memory and other techniques for improving your memory visit Memory Improvement Online.
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